Former Labor Queensland premier Peter Beattie has called on the state to open its borders ahead of Saturday’s election.
While Beattie was keen to insist he backed Queensland’s hard border previously, his intervention will put pressure on incumbent Annastacia Palaszczuk to finally open to NSW.
“Queensland has to have an economy to grow,” Beattie told the Today program. “A lot of people are leaving Brisbane and going into the regions. That’s great. Same is happening in NSW. But there is a loss in the major cities and that’s largely where our population is.
“So, if Queensland wants to have a lot of people out of Sydney coming to put jobs in the Gold Coast, Cairns, Townsville, now is the time to change the strategy.
“This is not about Western Australia or Queensland. It is about Australia. We need a debate that says ‘Come on Australia, we have found out how to manage this’. The best way is by contact tracing. We have largely got the virus under control. Let’s talk about the future.”
There is speculation Premier Palaszczuk will announce a date to open on Friday – the eve of the election. She had previously said she would only open to NSW if the state recorded 28 days without any ‘mysterious’ cases where no source can be traced, something that’s not happened.
Polls currently show the election will be a close-fought contest between Premier Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington.
The news comes on the day Victoria recorded no new COVID cases for the second day running, leading NSW to state its border wouldn’t remain shut for “a day longer than it needs to be”.
Last week, Australian Aviation revealed that Queensland’s continued refusal to open its borders to Sydney caused the latter’s domestic passenger traffic to flatline in September after plunging 70 per cent the previous month.
In a statement to the ASX, Sydney Airport said it welcomed 98,000 passengers in September, up only slightly from 91,000 in August and down significantly from 276,000 in July.
Sydney Airport also revealed it welcomed 34,000 international passengers in September, down slightly from 39,000 in August.
The figures are still down more than 95 per cent from the same period last year.
However, the business signalled numbers could rise after states relaxed border restrictions.
“Throughout October 2020 travel restrictions affecting some of Sydney Airport’s domestic markets were lifted,” the statement said. “Travel restrictions between New South Wales and South Australia and New South Wales and the Northern Territory were lifted on 1 October and on 9 October, respectively.
“Internationally, one-way quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory commenced on 16 October 2020.”
Previously, Australian Aviation has also reported how Queensland’s decision to re-shut its border to NSW bizarrely caused Brisbane to become busier than Sydney by a huge margin.